When the divorce was final, I put the final period on a very painful chapter of my life, but I also got a whole new book, one I’d have the freedom to write exactly as I wanted.
My divorce was finalized on December 19th, 2018, also the exact same day my ex-husband had proposed to me nine years earlier.
I didn’t know what I should wear for such an occasion, so I spent an inordinate amount of time dressing. I wore a dress and high heels and pantyhose, thinking I should wear something appropriate for a courthouse, though many people I noticed later had just worn jeans.
I felt scared and sweaty and slightly nauseous and also elated. It would be finally over, a day I’d been looking forward to for months, a day when the fighting and bickering and lawyering would be over.
As I sat in the courtroom waiting to be pronounced divorced, I thought about how some endings are also beginnings, and too how some beginnings are also endings. I should have never married my ex-husband, so it seemed right that it was ending on the same date it began.
My divorce took eleven months to be finalized. I idiotically thought it would be easy. We’d settle everything in the ninety day period and begin our new life as divorced co-parents.
I did the leaving after I had discovered my ex-husband had embezzled from his job, so I thought he would give in to everything I asked because I could have at any point tell his employer what he’d done. But my ex-husband had chosen a better lawyer than I had, and he wasn’t willing to let me walk away easily.
He fought me over everything, and him going off to jail would mean I wouldn’t get the child support I very much needed for our two children, so both of us knew I wasn’t going to turn him in. He never stopped believing I’d come back to him, throwing out little half-hearted pleas every once in a while, and I think he made it hard for me because he hoped I’d relent. When we sold the house we shared, he wept through the entire signing process and told me, “I just never thought it would happen.”
The finalization of the divorce process felt like a dirty fantasy that would never come to fruition. We would reach some kind of understanding and then dates would need to be rescheduled or there’d be some hiccup in paperwork or his or my lawyer had messed something up. It began to feel like it’d never happen, like I’d never truly be able to move on with my life because I’d always be stuck in “separated” limbo.
When the final hearing was scheduled, it was just me in the courtroom. My ex-husband didn’t need to attend. I stepped into the room and waited while other cases were heard.
As I waited, I replayed through my head all of the things I’d given into. I had not done the best for myself in my divorce, but our children would do fine. I had been more willing to lay down so I could get out instead of fight. I hadn’t wanted to fight, so I had walked out of my marriage with very little. I knew I’d be fine because I had faith, but I struggled with the sense that I’d been victimized when I hadn’t been the one to do something criminal. I knew that’s something I’d have to get over. I couldn’t live as a “victim” and move on.
When I was finally called up and the judge went over the particulars, I sat numbly. When she said, “Congratulations, you’re divorced!” it felt anti-climatic. All of that struggle and pain and numbness for eleven months just to finally hear those little words. Those little words that didn’t sound all that different from “I now pronounce you husband and wife.”
As I walked out of the courtroom, I felt a wave of exceptional sadness, and I wept as I walked to my car, dripping my well-applied eyeliner all down my face.
The divorce process was over for me then. Some couples make it to this point and they still have to divide assets or sell homes, but we’d done all of that. The entire divorce process was terrible, but I was grateful that a chapter of my life had finally closed.
It doesn’t matter how bad you wanted the divorce. How ready you are to move on with your life, start something new, and forget how hard it was to end things with someone you thought would be your forever. The finality of divorce, the change of your marital status from Married to Divorced, is like experiencing a death — only you’re both still alive.
It didn’t really hit me until the day after, knowing that it was truly over. Yes, I’d have to write “divorced” on paperwork until I re-married, but that terrible awful which is separation and divorcing was over.
Nothing changed much after our divorce. The divorce had made us bitter strangers, and post-divorce, we are now merely indifferent strangers. I don’t know much what’s going on in his life, and he doesn’t know much what’s going on in mine.
Yes, my ex will still be in my life for a very long time — at gatherings for our children or in memories that pop up on my Facebook timeline — , but that is our only connection. When the divorce was final, I put the final period on a very painful chapter of my life, but I also got a whole new book, one I’d have the freedom to write exactly as I wanted.